The new Hitman game is going to be coming to the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in DLC-esque chunks. Not episodes.
You might think that releasing the initial part of a game and then releasing the rest of it over time sounds like early access. Not so, apparently. Here’s what developer IO Interactive has to say about that in an FAQ: “Early access can often mean something unfinished or unpolished. That’s simply not the approach we’re taking. All of the content we release live to our players will be complete and polished, whether that’s the locations and missions we release on December 8th, the live events or the locations and missions that we will release in 2016. It will always be a polished Hitman experience.”
Regarding the idea that the game is coming in “episodes,” IO says: “We think the word ‘episodic’ sets up the expectation that we will sell individual content drops for individual prices but that’s not something we’re planning to do. That said, there are some episodic elements to the story in the sense that it’s delivered in chunks over time, so experiencing the story will probably feel episodic. But there is also a ton of other content including live events, which have nothing to do with the story. We’ll also be improving and changing the game constantly whilst you’re playing it. Our ambition is to have a stream of content available from December 8th until the story arc is finished.”
So, although the new Hitman will expand with new pieces of story over time, it isn’t technically early access: None of these updates will be rough, nor will they be tests to gain feedback from the public. And although they are “episodic” in nature, it makes sense that IO wants to move away from the words “episodes” and “DLC,” because they are words that bring to mind images of additional content that comes at a price. The whole idea sounds a bit similar to the way The Witcher 3 worked, with its cluster of free DLC – except on a larger scale.
I have to admit that I still remain skeptical about the game’s model, because I’ve heard “don’t worry, all the DLC in the future will totally be free,” or “just buy this Season Pass and you won’t have to worry about buying DLC again,” only to find out that this level or that weapon isn’t included in that deal. But here’s IO’s final word on the game’s $60 price tag: “That $60 includes everything we create in this story arc; from what we release on December 8th through to the end of the story arc in 2016 and all the live events too. There’s no micro-transactions or hidden costs in there. No extra paid DLC on top either. It’s one package, all-in for $60. We want that to be simple and clear and it was important for us to be up-front about that.”
Hitman will also be released (eventually) as a physical disc, once the entire story has been created and released; but you’ll have to play an online-enabled digital copy of the game if you want to be a part of the live events.